The president of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey, BC, was shot dead in the parking lot of the temple on Sunday evening, according to members of the province’s Sikh community.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s death was confirmed by temple officials and Sikh community groups, and has been widely mourned on social media.
Police say they are investigating a fatal shooting outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, east of Vancouver, but have not named the victim.
A Surrey RCMP statement said officers arrived at the scene at the gurdwara on 120 Street near 70 Avenue at around 8:30 pm PT following a “report of a shooting in a temple car park”.
Investigators said a man was found in a vehicle with gunshot wounds and died of his injuries at the scene.
At 10:30 p.m., Breaking: saw a heavy police presence on the scene with more than 100 people gathered at the temple, where police had sealed off both entrances.
‘Immeasurable physical loss’
Bhupinder Singh Hothi, general secretary of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Society, told the media that Nijjar, 45, had just left the gurdwara and was sitting in his vehicle in the parking lot when he was attacked.
In a post on Facebook, the BC Sikhs organization said the Sikh community has suffered “immeasurable physical loss”.
The gurdwara’s vice president, Amandeep Singh Johal, told Breaking: that Nijjar was an activist with the Sikh independence group Sikhs for Justice.
Hothi said Nijjar had received threats over his support for a separate Sikh state in India called Khalistan. He added that the shooting will not deter those who share his beliefs.
In 2016, Breaking: reported that the Government of India was seeking Nijjar’s extradition from Canada on extremism-related charges.
LOOK | The CBC explains the terrorism allegations involving Hardeep Singh Nijjar in 2016:
In a Canadian press article at the time, based on reporting from the Times of India, alleged Indian intelligence agencies warned the Canadian government that pro-Khalistan extremists near Mission, BC, including Nijjar, were planning attacks in Punjab .
Nijjar maintained his innocence at the time and denied all allegations.
Punjab is the only Sikh-majority state in India, with about 30 million people living in the region.
Many Sikhs have long advocated for the establishment of Khalistan, saying Sikhs face discrimination and oppression in Hindu India. The Indian authorities deny those allegations.
As news of the murder spread on Sunday evening and people gathered at the gurdwara, some in the crowd began chanting phrases including “long live Khalistan”, “we want a separate Khalistan”, and “death to India”, as RCMP officers watched.
The region’s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) is now working with Surrey RCMP on the murder, speaking to witnesses and looking for videos or other evidence. It will hold a press conference in Surrey this afternoon to provide more information on the matter.
“At this early stage of the investigation, possible motives for the shooting are not yet known,” Surrey RCMP said in its statement. “Police are still determining possible suspicious descriptions from multiple witnesses who were nearby.”